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Noting the Depth Chart

Posted Aug 3, 2014

Derek Wolfe's comeback from last year's neck injury is complete: he's back on the first team. That and more is in Andrew Mason's depth chart breakdown.

Derek Wolfe is back in every way. He has his explosion off the snap, his muscle -- and now, his place atop the depth chart at defensive end.

Wolfe's re-ascendance was confirmed by the Broncos' first depth chart of the 2014 season, issued Sunday evening in advance of the preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks on Aug. 7. He's one spot ahead of Malik Jackson, who saw his playing time increase last year after Wolfe's season ended following 11 games.

But the Broncos' shuffling of defensive linemen -- particularly at defensive tackle, which Wolfe and Jackson can play on pass-rush downs -- means plenty of repetitions for whoever is the backup of the two.

A similar dynamic exists at defensive tackle, where Sylvester Williams, last year's first-round pick, is listed ahead of Kevin Vickerson, who is still rounding into form after suffering a season-ending hip injury last year. Williams started in place of Vickerson late last year and has continued his growth, displaying a quick reaction off the snap that has allowed him to disrupt numerous plays over the last week and a half.

Vickerson is listed on the second team with Marvin Austin, whose performance has been one of the pleasant surprises of the summer, dating back to organized team activities. Austin and Vickerson are listed ahead of Mitch Unrein, who is on the third team next to Sione Fua, another holdover from last year.

Other items of note:

  • Fifth-round linebacker Lamin Barrow is listed as the second-team middle linebacker behind Nate Irving, reflecting his play in recent days. Veteran Steven Johnson is listed on the third team behind Irving and Barrow. Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio noted Barrow's improvement Friday, telling media: "If you looked at the first day of practice and you looked at today, you'd go, 'Wow, he doesn't even look like the same guy."
  • Rookie cornerback Bradley Roby is listed on the second team, along with Kayvon Webster. This reflects his work in practice; with Chris Harris Jr. still completing his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Roby has faced off with first-team receivers extensively since the start of organized team activities. Tony Carter and Omar Bolden are listed as the third-team cornerbacks.
  • Brandon Marshall has solidified his place as the No. 2 weakside linebacker behind Danny Trevathan. Marshall, who spent most of last year on the practice squad before a late-season promotion, has been effective so far in camp, with a good blend of instincts and speed.
  • Cameron Morrah is listed as the No. 4 tight end, which puts him one spot ahead of Gerell Robinson, the converted former receiver who was on the practice squad last year, adding weight as part of his position shift.
  • Juwan Thompson leads the list of the four running backs beyond the returning trio of Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson. This reflects recent days in practice and the Summer Scrimmage, when Thompson was the fourth running back used. That gave him some work with the second unit after Anderson's solid performance Saturday.
  • Quinton Carter and Duke Ihenacho are the second-team safeties behind Rahim Moore and T.J. Ward. David Bruton, last year's special-teams captain, is on the No. 3 line with John Boyett.
  • Wes Welker and Andre Caldwell are listed as the first-team punt and kickoff returners, respectively. They are shown ahead of Jordan Norwood and Bolden. Rookie Isaiah Burse is listed as a third-team wide receiver behind Welker and Norwood, and a third-team punt returner.